Tourists begging for money violate Vietnam's national ban on street begging, said Tran Chi Dung, tourism chief in Kien Giang province, home to the popular island resort of Phu Quoc.

"No exception" was to be made for foreign street beggars "no matter how polite" they appear to be, Dung told Tuoi Tre newspaper.

"They play music, sing, perform magic tricks or, in the recent case, meditate, to ask for money," he said.

Dung's statement came in response to a viral picture on social media depicting a foreign woman meditating next to a beggar's bowl in Phu Quoc, apparently soliciting for cash.

While the identity and motives of the woman remain unclear, the practice of western travellers begging in major cities across Southeast Asia has come under fire in local media.

The director of Kien Giang's department of foreign affairs, Van Cong Dau, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that his office directed foreign beggars to their respective embassies for assistance.

"If foreigners come here looking for a short-term or long-term job - and I have to make it clear that street begging is not considered a job in Vietnam - then they must have a legitimate labour contract in accordance with Vietnamese laws," Dau said.

Western Advocate - August 15, 2017